Topeka — Federal prosecutors and defense attorneys for former Westar Energy Inc. executive David Wittig on Wednesday argued over who should get control of $7 million he forfeited following his 2005 convictions for allegedly defrauding the Topeka-based utility.
An appeals court has since thrown out those convictions, including the forfeiture, and Wittig is scheduled to be retried Jan. 14 on some of those counts.
The $7 million was actually handed over by Wittig's wife, Beth, through an agreement she signed last year that allowed her to keep some of the couple's assets that were the targets of the forfeiture hearings. The agreement also prevented the government from trying to seize additional property.
After the 10th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned Wittig's convictions, the government returned the money to the Wittigs but also said it was revoking the agreement with Beth Wittig.
David Wittig's attorneys said the money belongs to their client and should be repaid to him without eliminating his wife's agreement. One of the attorneys, Jeff Morris, told U.S. District Judge Julie Robinson Wednesday he would hold the money in an interest-bearing account until after the next trial.
Prosecutors, however, want Robinson to determine the money is theirs to keep and are asking her to reimpose a slate of conditions on the Wittigs that would control how they spend money.
They have long charged that David and Beth Wittig have shifted assets around to hide them from authorities and make it appear David Wittig lacks the resources to pay fines and other penalties.
Assistant U.S. Attorney Richard Hathaway told Robinson that David Wittig's latest legal maneuvers are designed, in the event of a new conviction, to prevent prosecutors from seizing more than the $7 million, which represents a signing bonus and split-dollar insurance payments he received while working at Westar.
Morris replied that the government should live by the settlement agreement.
Robinson said she would rule after receiving more information from Morris of what assets he believes are off-limits to prosecutors.